Newcastle 2017-2018

When I wrote my application last year, I was asked to rank my favourite cities for a year abroad. I didn’t really drink alcohol, and, although I loved singing while doing my dishes, I didn’t really see the fun in shouting along to songs in clubs. So which city did I write down as my number one choice, as my favourite city to live in for an entire year? Newcastle, one of the biggest party cities in the UK!

The logic might seem a bit off, but there’s a lot more to Newcastle than its nightlife. I chose Newcastle because it was in the city centre, had a good linguistics programme and taught creative writing classes. What is great about studying English in the UK is that there are a lot more specialised linguistics and literature modules to choose from. I could pick a module called ‘Accents of English’, which was completely devoted to the different varieties of English in the UK, and an advanced syntax module about negation and self-talk. The classes in Newcastle and Groningen are quite similar, but assessment and the structure of the modules are a bit different. Instead of four exam periods, I only have one each semester. During those weeks, I’ve had to take a few exams, but I feel like essay writing is more popular in here than in the Netherlands. So, if you’re thinking about studying in the UK, be prepared for a lot of research!

Because I am a Harting student, I also have to teach Dutch. I am in charge of the intermediate group, which consists of five students this year. I teach one hour a week, during which I discuss parts of a book with them and give them listening, vocabulary and speaking exercises. Fortunately, I don’t have to give them any information about Dutch grammar because that part is taught by the module leader (who’s also my supervisor). Apart from the book chapters and a few compulsory assignments, the programme is entirely up to me. This might all seem a bit daunting at first, but I got used to it really quickly. In fact, I actually quite enjoy it now because the students are so nice. Plus, with all the English you hear around you, it is great to speak Dutch once in a while!

I live in private halls just outside of the city centre, where I have my own bathroom and share the kitchen/living room with three other people. I decided to live off campus because I thought Newcastle University might place me in an international house or in a flat with first-year students, and I preferred a house with a combination of international and British students who were a bit more mature. I ended up living with thee great people, two British guys and one  German girl, who’s now left and been replaced by another British guy. I’m really glad I decided to go for the room I have now instead of an en-suite room with kitchen. You never know if you’ll get along with your flatmates, but it’s really useful to share a kitchen if you do because that’s where all the good talks take place.

In my experience, the course load is not as heavy as in the Netherlands, so you’ll have more time to go on trips on weekends. Because Newcastle is very close to Scotland, it’s quite easy to get to cities such as Edinburgh (1.5 hrs) and Glasgow (2.5 hrs). Edinburgh is great, especially in December when you can visit its ridiculously big Christmas market. York is also definitely worth a visit, both for history enthusiasts and Harry Potter fans (one of its streets, ‘The Shambles’, was the inspiration for Diagon Alley !). And if you like the beach, it will only take you 25 minutes to get there. I’ve been there a couple of times, and it doesn’t get old!

I’ve told you some of the highlights of my stay in Newcastle, but studying in another country can have its ups and downs. After the first semester, several of my international friends had to go home, including my German flatmate with whom I was quite close. Sometimes I miss my family and friends back home. And Newcastle is a beautiful city, but sometimes I wish I’d be in cosy Groningen for few days. But I think that’s all part of the experience: I’m still really glad I decided to study abroad for a year because I’ve been able to explore the UK and engage with the culture I’ve been studying for almost three years. If you’re thinking about studying abroad, I would definitely go for it, and, if you want to go to the UK, keep Newcastle in mind!

Penny Heisterkamp

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